Monday, July 25, 2011

This Organic Life

I've been thinking a lot lately about organic living and how, for me, it is so much more than just the foods that I choose to eat or the chemicals that I choose to avoid. It's inevitable, really, this organic life.

I couldn't get away from it when I witnessed the arrival of the cicadas earlier this summer. When they covered the grass beneath my feet, emerging from some deep hole within which they've remained hidden for year upon year and I fell asleep to and woke to the endless wooshing of their wings, rubbing together endlessly, as they sought out their mates.

But then, almost as quickly as they arrived, they left.  In spirit, that is, because all around they left reminders of their presence.  A mini foreshadowing of a rapturous exit from this world.  One day they were here, the next, no more.

And then, there is the garden.  We got started much later than is reasonable this year.  Delayed by the seemingly endless Spring rains that made tilling and cultivating impossible to do well,
we waited. 
And waited. 

When others were already starting to harvest their first yellow squash or zucchini, we were just beginning. 

But we were armed with something different this year. 

Chicken manure. 

Like a slow, magical brew, it has been cooking for over a year.  Chicken waste is too strong to use straight from the coop.  It must be tempered by time and patience.   As it sits in its pile, quiet and unassuming, a mysterious thing is happening deep inside.  What was once waste begins to cure.  Temperature and moisture and air dance together in a mystical trinity, working together for good.  What it becomes is like gold.

 Into this pile of what, in another setting, would be considered trash, waste, crap, we boldly place our seeds.  We do this because we believe that good will come of it.  We do this because our experience has shown us that there is promise in the pile.

Even though every year that we work this soil, more rocks make their way to the surface, as do other remnants of life gone by, the fact that we have this pile of gold dust to mix in makes all the difference.
It doesn't matter that ugly things have been hidden here.  It doesn't matter that others didn't care for it like we would have if given the opportunity.  It doesn't matter that this dirt didn't produce anything for years.  We are allowed access to a miracle. 

A miracle that testifies to an impossibility:  from death comes life.

"...where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace..." {2 Corinthians 4:16, The Message}

I couldn't help but smile when I traced my finger through the soil to make safe havens for my seeds and I came across cicada shells in the dirt.

...from death comes life.

So now, our seeds have transformed into plants.  The tomatoes reach upwards, guided skyward by strings that assist them towards the sun. 

Now there is fruit.

Thanks be to God.

"For if you go poking about the world, intent on keeping the candle of consciousness blazing, you must be ready to give thanks at all times.  Discrimination is not allowed.  The flame cannot gutter and fail when a cold wind whistles through the house.
Thanksgiving, thanksgiving.  All must be thanksgiving.
It took thirty-eight thousand Levites to give thanks to God in David's day; every morning and every evening the shifts changed.  Four thousand were needed just to carry the hacked carcasses of cattle, and another four thousand were needed to sing about it.  The place reeked of blood, was soaked in blood.  The priests stood around gnawing and chewing and giving thanks.  They did not cross-stitch their gratitude on samplers to frame and hang on the wall.  They wrote their thanks in blood on the doorposts every day.
Thanksgiving is not a task to be underaken lightly.  It is not for dilettantes or aesthetes.  One does not dabble in praise for one's own amusement, nor train the intellect and develop perceptual skills to add to his repertoire.  We're not talking about the world as a free course in art appreciation.  No.  Thanksgiving is not a result of perception; thanksgiving is the access to perception."
--From And the Trees Clap Their Hands, by Virginia Stem Owens

And so I continue to count...

--breezes that cut the blazing heat
--the rumble of thunder that tells me that it is raining somewhere
--boys that turn 9 and still want me close
--friends that own cows (named Chocolate!) and share their abundance with us
--discovering like-minded souls and bearing mine to them
--the wonder of imagination and the capturing of such in amazing stories and books
--an impending anniversary that sweetens the week
--conversations around the dinner table that create laughter and good feelings
--the promise of new learning opportunities and wonderful people with whom to share such gifts

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chaff and Grain, together

It's early evening, midsummer, and I'm sitting in a big box bookstore because the town I live in is big enough for a mall but not big enough for an independent coffee shop that stays open past dinnertime.  I wanted a coffeehouse vibe, with creaky floors, old salvaged furniture and jazz music playing in the background but this was the closest thing going.  Anyway, who doesn't feel better surrounded by millions of books?

I'm here because I've been called here.  Called to a meeting of hearts and minds that have gradually become entwined with my own. And now there is a new face to meet and embrace and love because, if the one who has called us together loves her dearly, it will inevitably follow that we will love her, too. 

We've pulled two teeny tables together, needing them only for a place to keep our drinks accessible and for the occasional elbow to rest.  Most of the time, however, we are pulled inward, like drawstrings, closer towards each other ...
the better to hear you, my dear. 

And so we begin the delicate dance of receiving someone new into our fold.  A fold of individuals "bound together by common beliefs", rather than by a fence that confines us.  I look around the table, taking it all in, silently and stealthily tracing my fingers along the faces that shimmer with the evening sun.

One smiles broadly, long brown ringlets framing her face and her joy.  Her hands are clasped together, not from nerves but, rather, from a need to complete the circle that she is arms, open mind, open heart.  To find oneself surrounded by that circle is a gift, received again and again.  Who could have possibly known of the pain that she carries almost daily, pressing in upon her brilliant mind, determined to wreak havoc but finding, instead, a fortress of choices, also made daily, that are able to push away that which seeks to destroy and chooses, instead, to embrace the gifts?

Another breathes hope.  She has taken up arms against an evil that is hell bent on destroying bodies and spirits.  Her heart is both heavy and light, weary from the dance of responsibility but also mightier from the challenge of a foe that doesn't kill her, only makes her strongerMercy leads her every muscle, leaving grace in its wake.  She sighs.

And the newest among us sits quietly, taking it all in.  A self-avowed city-girl-turned-country-mama because of a die-hard love for a man that is her partner on the journey.  But I can see the honesty of her desire, burning through her skin, and the smell of earth is palpable.  She was not destined to breathe smog forever.  Instead, she breathes us in, receiving us with grace and openness.  There is so much to know about her and not enough time in the moment.

The store's loud speaker informs us of closing time...we don't have to go home but we can't stay there.  So we move outside and for two more hours, we stand, oblivious to the hard pavement beneath our feet...only aware of that drawstring, pulling us closer.

These are the nights that help to make me who I am. 

Alone, I'm easily overwhelmed, burdened by all that has to be done or completed or checked off...
But I learn that I don't have to do it all. 
that is how we are supposed do it. 
Alone, it is too much to take on
but     together    we are more. 
One's extravagance of mercy will carry me through the darkness to another's eye for goodness. 
And another's heart for courage becomes my buoy, preventing me from sinking into the abyss.

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.
~Dinah Craik

We finally disperse, walking to our cars with a fullness we didn't have before.  We begin to realize the lateness of the hour but still, somehow, we move with a renewed sense of energy.
The orange moon hangs low, it too, with a fullness that belies its crescent shape.  It hangs, ripe with the evening, not wanting to move from its place in the sky.  I want to fling a rope around its slope and hang over the wide expanse of creation in order to take it all in.